Landscapers 'lucky to break even' with high gas prices

Landscapers 'lucky to break even' with high gas prices

Some local businesses are struggling under the weight of increasing gas prices, but landscape and yard maintenance companies have been particularly hard hit.

They're at the mercy of the price at the pump.

In Alberta, prices hit as high as $1.38 in Calgary and $1.36 in Edmonton, according to GasBuddy.com on Wednesday evening.

"Straight up, I've got to pay almost 50 per cent more on fuel costs than last year. Last year we were paying about 90 cents a litre. Now we're paying [almost] $1.40," said Bruce Theunissen, general manager of Signature Landscape Maintenance.

"Bottom line, in combination with the extreme winter that we had, lucky to break even."

Theunissen fills up each of his 12 trucks once or twice a week, and has other equipment, from lawn mowers to leaf blowers, all requiring gasoline. He said he will be forced to raise prices — once this year's contracts expire.

Chris Jorgenson, a co-owner of Canada Yard Pro Ltd., says he's taking a risk to save his family-run business with a big switch over for the next season in Calgary and Edmonton.

He's installing robotic mowers for his customers. The automatic machines roll around a client's lawn on battery power, keeping the grass short.

He will lease them to clients for the same price they pay for traditional lawn care. The only crew required, he said, would be to do the edging and delivery.

"We have to or we have to close our doors," Jorgenson said. "There's not a chance that we'll make money this year. We are going to lose money this year, and it boils down to gas prices."

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With files from Jennifer Lee.